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AFGHANISTAN
CASE N AFG/01 - MALALAI JOYA

Resolution adopted unanimously by the IPU Governing Council at its 182nd session
(Cape Town, 18 April 2008)

The Governing Council of the Inter-Parliamentary Union,

Having before it the case of Ms. Malalai Joya of Afghanistan, which has been the subject of a study and report of the Committee on the Human Rights of Parliamentarians following the Procedure for the treatment by the Inter-Parliamentary Union of communications concerning violations of the human rights of members of parliament,

Taking note of the report of the Committee on the Human Rights of Parliamentarians, which contains a detailed outline of the case (CL/182/12(b)-R.1-Add.),

Taking account of the communication from the Secretary General of the House of the People of Afghanistan (dated 17 February 2008), forwarding parliamentary correspondence about the case, including a report from the House of the People's Committee on Immunity and Privileges,

Considering that on 21 May 2007 the House of the People of Afghanistan decided to suspend the parliamentary mandate of one of its members, Ms. Malalai Joya, MP for Farah province, until the end of her term for violating the Standing Orders (more particularly Article 67, which has become, in an extensively modified version, Article 70 of the new Standing Orders) in respect of words she spoke on television; referring to the Parliament, and more particularly to some of its members, Ms. Joya, who is a staunch critic of the former warlords, a defender of human rights and a powerful voice for Afghan women, said in a television interview that: "They are criminals and worse than the animals in a stable or zoo; at least an animal like a cow is useful in that it provides milk and a donkey can carry a load. Or even an animal like a dog which is the most loyal animal.",

Considering that, according to the sources, members of parliament have regularly criticized one another, but that no one else had been suspended on such grounds, even when Ms. Joya was called a "prostitute" or "whore" by fellow parliamentarians who reportedly called for her to be raped and killed; the parliamentary authorities insist that the decision against Ms. Joya, which was not made by the Administrative Board but taken by the majority of the members of the House of the People in open session, was not in connection with her criticism but because her words were an affront to parliament and the entire nation,

Noting that, according to the sources, at the time of Ms. Joya's suspension, the Standing Orders were only in draft form and had not yet been officially adopted by Parliament and that, under those Orders, a member can be suspended for a period of longer than one day only at the request of the Administrative Board and with the subsequent approval of parliament,

Considering that Ms. Joya immediately protested against her suspension and the procedure followed to secure it; after having finally collected the money to pay for legal counsel and found a lawyer willing to take up her case, she was able to file it in the Supreme Court in February 2008,

Considering also that, despite initial indications that Ms. Joya may be prosecuted for her remarks, no action appears to have been initiated for the purpose,

Considering further that Ms. Joya has been continuously threatened owing to her outspoken stance, has survived four assassination attempts and that her security is assured by members of her family,

Bearing in mind lastly that Afghanistan is a party to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and is therefore bound to respect the right to security and freedom of expression as guaranteed in its Articles  9 and 19,

  1. Thanks the parliamentary authorities for the information provided;

  2. Is deeply concerned that Ms. Joya was suspended on account of outspoken remarks she made about the functioning of the Parliament of Afghanistan and about some of her fellow parliamentarians; reaffirms in this respect that freedom of expression is a fundamental tenet of democracy and must be construed as broadly as possible in the case of parliamentarians as the elected representatives of the people who draw attention to their concerns and defend their interests, and necessarily entails the right to sharply criticize the Parliament and Government and their performance, and should therefore be particularly cherished by parliament;

  3. Considers that the suspension of the parliamentary mandate is a serious measure as it not only prevents parliamentarians concerned from exercising their mandate but also prevents their electorate from being represented by the person of their choice; that this measure must therefore be taken in strict compliance with the law and the relevant legal procedures and be limited in time; is therefore deeply concerned that no time limit was set for the suspension, which has been in effect for almost a year, and that, contrary to the Standing Orders of Parliament (new and old versions), the Administrative Board appears to have been in no way involved in the decision to suspend Ms. Joya;

  4. Notes with deep concern that while Ms. Joya's remarks have led to serious punishment, her treatment by fellow parliamentarians has apparently not drawn any response from Parliament;

  5. Notes that a petition challenging the suspension has been filed in the Supreme Court; trusts that the Court will decide on the matter without delay; would appreciate receiving information in this respect; would also appreciate confirmation that Ms. Joya is not subjected to any judicial action in respect of her remarks;

  6. Is alarmed at the persistent death threats against Ms. Joya and the absence of any security detail offered by the authorities; insists that the general insecurity in Afghanistan makes it abundantly clear that threats against her safety have to be taken extremely seriously and require an effective response;

  7. Consequently urges the authorities, in compliance with their obligation to protect the right to life and to security, to provide her with a full security detail as a matter of urgency; would greatly appreciate information on steps taken to this end;

  8. Calls on the authorities at the same time to do everything in their power to identify and bring to justice those making the death threats against Ms. Joya; reaffirms in this respect that the Parliament of Afghanistan has a special responsibility when the security of one of its members is at stake; calls therefore on the parliamentary authorities to take appropriate action to help ensure that the required protection for Ms. Joya is put in place without delay and that the threats are diligently investigated; would appreciate information on any steps taken in this respect;

  9. Requests the Secretary General to convey this resolution to the parliamentary authorities and to the source;

  10. Requests the Committee to continue examining this case and report to it at its next session, to be held on the occasion of the 119th Assembly of the IPU (Geneva, October 2008).
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